OMAHA, NE The Omaha police union contract is automatically extended through 2014 with no changes, a judge ruled last week.
Douglas County District Judge Joseph Troia ruled that the City of Omaha failed to give appropriate notice that it intended to begin bargaining for 2014. The judge’s ruling settles a lawsuit brought by the union.
Mayor Jean Stothert said in a press release that the city will appeal the ruling, saying she wants to make pension changes beyond what was negotiated four years ago.
Police union President John Wells said in his own press release that the union is ready to move beyond the lawsuit.
Meantime, the city sent the union a letter this week saying it intends to open negotiations for 2015.
In a two-day trial, the union argued that the contract, which expired at the end of 2013, should automatically be extended because the city didn’t send an official letter about opening negotiations by April 1.
The city argued that the union had waived that requirement by beginning the negotiation process anyway.
Stothert said she was disappointed with the ruling.
“The union did not demand written notice of our desire to open negotiations until we made a pension proposal they did not like and did not want to negotiate,” she said in a statement. “Our sole interest is returning to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract that is good for our employees and good for the taxpayers.”
She said she wants to see the police union agree to further pension cuts. For example, she said, firefighters agreed to a maximum annual payout of 65 percent of their salary. For police, the maximum is 75 percent.
“Pension reform can’t wait,” she said. “It’s serious. And we want the police union to be part of the solution.”
Wells said the union had already agreed to major pension benefit cuts.
“We understand there are important issues regarding health care and other things that need to be discussed, and we can now move forward,” he said. “We have addressed serious issues in the past and have come to an agreement with the city, and we expect to do so in the future.”